Simone De Beauvoir

The Second Sex

One Is Not Born, But Rather Becomes, A Woman

Simone de Beauvoir - An Overview

Simone de Beauvoir (9 January 1908 – 14 April 1986) was a French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist, and social theorist.

She was born into a bourgeois Parisian family. Her father, Georges Bertrand de Beauvoir was a legal secretary who once had aspirations  to be an actor, and her mother Françoise Beauvoir (née Brasseur), was a wealthy banker's daughter and devout Catholic.

Simone de Beauvoir described the impact of her parents in her autobiographical "Memoires Of A Dutiful Daughter":

"...my father's individualism and pagan ethical standards were in complete contrast to the rigidly moral conventionalism of my mother's teaching. This disequilibrium, which made my life a kind of endless disputation, is the main reason why I became an intellectual."

She also describes her student days at the Sorbonne, where she met the man who was become her lifelong companion in, what for the times, was a most unconventional  open relationship. 

That man was Jean Paul Sartre - "the dream-companion I had longed for since I was fifteen".

Simone de Beauvoir wrote novels, essays, biographies, autobiographies and monographs on philosophy, politics, and social issues.

Despite not considering herself a philosopher, she had a significant influence on both feminist existentialism and feminist theory read, discussed and critiqued Sarte's written output.







Simone de Beauvoir - "The Second Sex"



    "Man is defined as a human being and woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male."


During her lifetime, her philosophical writings were viewed as echoes of Sartre rather than seen as her own unique contribution. The sexism of the time presumed that it was only “natural” to think of a woman as a disciple of a male companion.

It was also felt fact that because she wrote about women in her 1949 treatise "The Second Sex", providing a detailed analysis of women's oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism, this did not count as philosophy. Yet now it is regarded as as one of the hundred most important works of the twentieth century.



    "To emancipate woman is to refuse to confine her to the relations she bears to man, not to deny them to her; let her have her independent existence and she will continue nonetheless to exist for him also: mutually recognising each other as subject, each will yet remain for the other an other.

    The reciprocity of their relations will not do away with the miracles – desire, possession, love, dream, adventure – worked by the division of human beings into two separate categories; and the words that move us – giving, conquering, uniting – will not lose their meaning.

    On the contrary, when we abolish the slavery of half of humanity, together with the whole system of hypocrisy that it implies, then the 'division' of humanity will reveal its genuine significance and the human couple will find its true form."








Simone de Beauvoir would have enjoyed her current revised philosophical status in the way that it reflects our changed understanding of the domain of philosophy and the changed understanding of what it means to be a women.

She may also have appreciated the way in which her works was instrumental in effecting these changes, and its lasting impact is a tribute to the ways that others have taken up her philosophical and feminist legacies.

Beauvoir believed that the success of our projects [our conscious free choices] depends on the extent to which they are adopted by others.



    “I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth - and truth rewarded me.”





Resources:


The academic view of Simone de Beauvoir

Introduction to Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’:


The academic view of existentialism:

Stanford University Encyclopedia Of Philosophy

Easy to read view of existentialism:

Notre Dame University - College of Arts & Letters





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